Christian Arroyo certainly made his impact felt in his first game back with the Red Sox since June 20.
Just hours after being activated from the injured list, Arroyo crushed a solo home run off Angels starter Jose Suarez in his first big-league at-bat in over two weeks.
Arroyo’s fifth homer of the season — a 431-foot blast to left-center field — provided the Sox with the early boost they would need to both spoil Shohei Ohtani’s 27th birthday and secure a series-opening 5-4 victory over the Halos at Angel Stadium on Monday night.
With the win, Boston improves to 54-42 on the campaignand 3-1 on their current West Coast road trip. They, again, remain 4 1/2 games up on the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Devers stays hot with fifth 3-hit game of season
Rafael Devers recently lost two RBI on account of a scoring change made by Major League baseball, but he wasted no time in getting them back on Monday, with interest.
Moments after Arroyo got the Sox on the board first, Devers followed by doubling his side’s early lead with a run-scoring single that brought in Marwin Gonzalez and made it a 2-0 game.
Fast forward to the fourth, and the slugging third baseman struck again, this time taking Angels reliever Dylan Bundy 405 feet deep to right-center field on a towering two-run shot that put Boston ahead 4-1.
Devers, whose fourth-inning homer was his 21st of the year, also singled in the eighth to bring his batting average on the season up to .290.
Santana’s fine fifth inning on both sides of the ball
Danny Santana was not originally in the Sox’ starting lineup on Monday, but he was forced into action when left fielder Marwin Gonzalez exited with right hamstring tightness in the third inning.
Put on the spot right away, Santana came through in his second trip to the plate in the top of the fifth, as he greeted newly-inserted reliever Tony Watson by ripping an RBI single up the middle that brought in Xander Bogaerts from second and made it a 5-1 contest.
After delivering with the run-scoring knock in the top half of the inning, Santana showed off his arm strength in the bottom half by gunning down Jose Rojas at home plate to prevent the Angels from scoring their second run of the frame off Sox starter Martin Perez.
More outfield assists for the best team in baseball in that department
The Red Sox came into the week leading all of baseball in total outfield assists with 26 of them on the season. Even with that number — and what happened in the fifth inning — in mind, the Angels still tried to run on the likes of Santana, Enrique Hernandez, and Hunter Renfroe, and it cost them.
Following Santana’s defensive display, Hernandez followed suit in the sixth when he snuffed out Max Stassi, who was trying to turn a single into a double, at second base for the second out of the inning.
With Santana and Hernandez tacking on two more, the Red Sox have now tallied 28 outfield assists this season to add on to their league lead in that particular category.
Perez the beneficiary of some outstanding defense
Not only did Martin Perez benefit from the arm strength of his outfielders, he also benefitted from their agility as well.
Making his his 17th start of the season for Boston on Monday, Perez ran into some trouble out of the gate by issuing a one-out walk and one-out single in the second inning that resulted in Los Angeles’ first run of the night crossing the plate on a sacrifice fly.
Things would have been worse for Perez were it not for Enrique Hernandez, who robbed Luis Rengifo of a two-run home run by making a leaping grab at the wall in deep center field for the final out of the inning.
The veteran left-hander settled in a bit from there, stringing together two scoreless frames before putting himself in a jam in the bottom half of the fifth.
There, with one out and one run having already scored, Danny Santana prevented the Angels from pushing anything else across by throwing out Jose Rojas at home.
Hernandez proceeded to do the same in the sixth, as he recorded the second out of the frame by gunning down Max Stassi at second, at which point Perez was given the hook by Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (56 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler wound up surrendering two runs (one earned) on eight hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work. He did not factor into the decision, but did lower his ERA on the season to 3.89.
Red Sox bullpen holds on
In relief of Perez, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he got out of the sixth by recording the final two outs of the frame in quick fashion.
Sawamura also came back out for the seventh and got the first two outs there, but not before serving up a solo home run to Rojas that trimmed the Angels’ deficit down to two runs at 5-3.
Josh Taylor was next to be dispatched, and the left-hander got Ohtani to fly out to retire the side and punched out a pair in a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth as well to extend his scoreless appearances streak to 26 consecutive games.
Ottavino vs. Ohtani
With Matt Barnes unavailable, Cora had to turn to right-hander Adam Ottavino to lock things down in the ninth.
A leadoff walk issued to old friend Jose Igleasias would come back to bite Ottavino, as he allowed the speedster to score on an RBI single off the bat of Rojas.
David Fletcher singled to advance the potential tying run into scoring position, and that brought the vaunted Ohtani up to the plate in a pivotal spot.
Ottavino, who infamously once said he would ‘strike out Babe Ruth every time’ he faced him, was tasked with going up against the modern-day Ruth in the form of the two-way phenom that is Ohtani.
After falling behind in the count at 3-1, Ottavino got Ohtani to sharply ground out to a perfectly-positioned Arroyo in shallow right field to preserve the 5-4 victory for his side while also notching his seventh save of the year.
Next up: Eovaldi vs. Ohtani
Tuesday’s pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Angels will feature a pair of All-Stars going at it, with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston and Ohtani, also a right-hander, doing the same for Los Angeles.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 9:38 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Shohei Ohtani and Christian Arroyo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images